Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday -- Favorite Billboard EVER!

**Airtel is our local cell phone provider.

Morning Converstations

As I walk by the maid she is wiping down the bookshelves and my husbands books, many of which are over 50 years old with what appears to be a wet cloth.

"Are you using water to clean the books and the bookshelves?"

"No Madame, just a damp cloth."

"And what made the cloth damp?"

"Water Madame."

Pregnant pause. Waiting for the lightbulb to go on. Still no light bulb. Big sigh on my part.

"Please only use a dry cloth or the duster to clean the bookshelves. The water will damage the books and the wood."

With a perplexed look "Yes Madame."

Any bets on how long before I catch her cleaning the books with a wet cloth again?

Monday, April 25, 2011


Why do schools now seem to feel it is necessary to assign homework over long holidays? Is this a thing in the states too, or just overseas? I don't remember ever having homework over Spring Break or Christmas Holidays, not once, not ever. As an adult I would work overtime before vacation to make sure I didn't have to work while on vacation. I would strangle David if he brought work with him in vacation. So why should our kid's vacations be ruined by homework? What kind of lesson is it supposed to teach? That it is bad to take time off to relax? I know darned well those teachers aren't carting papers to grade when they go on safari, so why do they expect the kids to do it?

Today is the last day of Spring Break*. I am sitting here forcing the boy in Year Four (3rd grade) to read Charlotte's Web. The whole book, in one day. He dutifully carried the book with him to Zambia but instead of curling up and reading, he chased lizards, befriended donkeys, swam, went on Safari, got drenched at Victoria Falls, sat around campfires and generally enjoyed himself. He didn't get around to even starting Charlotte's Web.

While the older boy is sulking, but at least holding the book, even if he isn't reading it, I am in the kitchen with the boy in Year One (kindergarten). He is filling out his "My Animal Spotting Book." Said book didn't make the trip with us because mom was more worried about making sure we had swim suits, bug spray, sunscreen, malaria meds, and food. I wasn't even remotely thinking about homework over the holidays. So we are getting it all done today. Each page has a space for an animal's name, where it was spotted, and then it is to be classified as wild or domestic, herbivore carnivore or omnivore, and finally fur feathers skin or scales. I can't tell you how much fun it is get a 6 year old to write "I saw a BABOON at VICTORIA FALLS, it is an OMNIVORE, it is WILD and it has FUR," when all he wants to do is go swimming. Then we get to to do this for 4 more animals. He is supposed to draw a picture for each one too, but I am just printing the pictures and he can cut and glue, or we would be here all day.

The homeschool boy is running around outside because I didn't realize I was supposed to assign homework. Bad Mommy! Whatever was I thinking? No school work over vacation? The very idea of actually having time off! Sheez!

Dave had to run into town for a few things. As soon as he gets back we are going to head to the Tamarind Club and go swimming. Homework be damned. Whatever isn't done will just have to wait. The sun is shining, it is still spring break and we are going to enjoy it. It is already fall and I have been told that by mid-May it will be too cold to swim so we are going to enjoy these last days of summer.

*It is probably called Easter Break or something, since it is in fact the very end of summer here not spring, and the days are already starting to turn cooler. Yes the kids go to school all summer then get a month off during winter, which be summer if we were north of the equator, but since we are south of the equator it is winter and will be too clod to swim when they are off from school. Confused?

Friday, April 22, 2011

We're Back

We made it home from our trip to Zambia and Botswana. A fabulous time was had by all. New animals spotted: jackal, wildebeest, roan antelope, hartebeest, pied kingfisher, bateleur, marabou stork, ground hornbill, puku, and a few others I am too tired to think of. Still no rhinocerors, sable antelope, or wild dog. Maybe next time. I will start sorting pictures and getting some real blog posts up sometime this weekend. G'nite!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Safari Again Sans Dakota

We are heading out this weekend to Zambia and Botswana to see the famous Victoria Falls and go on Safari in Chobe National Park. The kids are excited. David is excited. I am sick. I caught the boys cold they have been passing around for the last few weeks. Darn germ factories! Hopefully it won't be too bad. I am taking it easy today, drinking plenty of warm tea and trying to think healthy thoughts.

I am a little sad too. This will be the first big family trip without Dakota. I know it is inevitable that children grow up and leave home, but I miss him. Especially on this trip. Dakota really wanted to see the falls while he was here in Africa. He wanted to go to The Devil's Pool, hang over the edge and look 300 feet straight down the falls, crazy kid!

Sadly it is a two day road trip and plane tickets here are prohibitively expensive for a large family. We just couldn't make such a long trip happen so early in a new posting. At least we did get to South Luangwa so he could go on Safari where we saw four of the big five, and tons of other animals too. Perhaps someday he will make it back to Africa with his own children and take them to see the falls. I hope so.

In the meantime I will try to blog next week. The lodge where we are staying advertises wireless internet, we'll see. If not then I will have lots to blog about when we get back to Malawi. Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Getting Old(er) Sucks

Most days I resolutely refuse to believe that I am getting old(er). Never mind that my oldest baby will be 19(!!!!) this month, and he moved out and joined the navy last year. I happily ignore the fact that potty training, pregnancy, morning sickness, and breast feeding are all well in the past. My hair is still blond, not grey, well except for the part that is red from my midlife crisis last year. I don't have too many wrinkles. I can zip my wedding dress, while wearing it. I can touch my toes, without bending my knees, thanks to yoga. Most of the time I feel pretty young.

Today I feel old. The why is a bit of a long story, so bear with me. Last year when I went in for my annual eye exam the Doc told me it was time for bifocals. ACK! Lasik anyone?? Being a complete chicken when it comes to surgery, especially on my eyes, I got bifocals. Thankfully technology has come a long way and now bifocals are "no-line" meaning that no one else can tell you are wearing bifocals so you don't have to look like an old granny.

It took me forever to get used to them, I tripped going up and down stairs, not a good thing when you are living in a 3rd floor walkup. When I turned my head the edges of my vision moved in an odd way that made me queasy. I had a hard time reading because I was used to looking straight at the page and moving my eyes. I needed to look down through the close up portion of the lens and move my whole head to follow the text, not my eyes. Finally though, after a few weeks though I got used to them, and it was nice to be able to see up close and far away with the same pair of glasses.

Last month I broke my bifocals. Grrr! I have been using my back up glasses, which of course are my old glasses from before I got the bifocals. The prescription is a little off, but it works fine for most things. Until today. I finally finished up piecing all the little quilt squares I inherited and I'm waiting for a shipment with the contrast fabric to arrive so I can finish the quilt top. Since I'm on a crafty kinda roll I pulled out one of the many other half finished craft projects, a cross stitch I started on home leave after Jakarta. It's very cute. Little mice with lemons and the saying: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" When I bought it I thought it would go perfectly in my kitchen, and it will if I ever finish it.

Back to the bifocals. I can't see the little holes in the Aida cloth with my old glasses on, but I can read the stitch chart. Without my glasses I can see the holes well enough to stitch, but then I can't read the graph. I am making progress but I have taken my glasses on and off about a thousand times today. I want my bifocals back. Sigh! I am so old. Maybe I should just give it up and get those little half glasses on a string. Then perhaps I could see well enough to craft, of course it would be hard to deny that I am getting old with a pair of granny glasses perched on the end of my nose.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Household Help

Daniela at Tuk & Tam is hosting the FS Weekly Blog Roundup. The optional talking point (OPT) is "The Best Of... insert country here." I am opting out of the OPT this week. Hey, it IS optional.

I’ve already ranted about the shortfalls of Malawi, although I think it is more a case of false advertising rather than actual shortfalls. Still I have already had my say, and I don't think I need to rehash it again. So far the best of Malawi has been the trip to Zambia last October, and well, Zambia is a different country, so that isn't exactly the best of Malawi.

Instead I am going to focus on house staff. If you are a long time reader you already know that I hired house staff before we arrived, based only on a recommendation from the people who had this house before us, no interview. It was a disaster. One I won't be repeating. While I appreciate that for some people having staff all lined up and ready to work from the day you hit the ground is a necessity, especially if you are a single parent or a tandem with kids, in the future I will be taking some time to settle in before hiring staff.

I have been without house staff since early October. Mostly I have enjoyed having the house to myself. An acquaintance here asked rather incredulously if I enjoyed cleaning toilets all day. Well no, but then again it only takes a few minutes to clean toilets, so it's not that big of a hardship. Plus the kids are old enough to help out around the house, and I think that having chores is a very important part of growing up.

I’m a bit of a homebody. I enjoy the process of making a house a home. I like cooking, dusting, and the satisfaction of a clean, attractive room. Ok, so I don't really enjoy laundry, but at least I have a washing machine to make it easier. I'm not sitting on the banks of a creek scrubbing my clothes like most women in Malawi, and I do love the smell when the dryer is running. Unlike a lot of (fully justified) trailing spouses you won't hear me complaining about not being able to find work at post. I was born in the wrong decade; I actually like being a domestic goddess. Sick isn't it? My mom is probably rolling her eyes right now trying to figure out where she went wrong.

As of this week we once again have house staff in the form of one maid/nanny. She's a hard worker, the house sparkles, she keeps the kids from fighting while I cook dinner, she speaks English, and she even bathes Grayson before she leaves. She’s a real gem. She’s driving me absolutely bonkers!

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I would be best off without full time help. I think in my ideal world I would have someone come in once or twice a week to do toilets, mop, vacuum, clean the windows, and do the ironing. That someone would call my by my given name, make eye contact, laugh when I tell a joke, and never never never flinch when I walk into a room. Then the rest of the time I could have my shiny clean house to myself.

So why did we hire a maid? Well there’s no such thing as a babysitter around here. David and I have not been out to dinner once since Dakota left for boot camp last December. In order to have a night out a few times a month we had to hire a full time employee. Talk about your overkill. The kids are all school age, so having a nanny seems a little silly. To justify hiring her we have her do housework in the morning and in the afternoon she mostly watches Grayson play with her daughters. I have to admit this plan beats having to run out and break up 10 fights between the boys while I try to cook dinner each night.

You know not so long ago I was a stay at home mom in the states, trying hard to keep my sanity with two kids in diapers, one half potty trained kiddo, and a preteen with attitude issues. I would have given my eyeteeth to have even a part time helper. A full time, live-in maid was the stuff of movies and dreams. David was working 2 jobs and going to school part time, so I was on my own most of the time. I don't know how we did it, but we did.

This is probably a case of be careful what you wish for. I was really looking forward to having help again. It is only now that I appreciate just exactly how lucky we were in Jakarta. Our pebantu and driver there were totally wonderful and we still keep in touch with both of them. It’s clear I will not have the same kind of relation with our current employee, but I do think we are going to be able to make it work. Now if I could just convince her to call me anything but “Madame.”